The Gateway to Mount Carleton | Stories | Explore the Chaleur Region in New Brunswick | Chaleur Tourism

The Gateway to Mount Carleton

So, you're looking to climb Mount Carleton? You'll need some information before you go!

 Published Sep 27

Below, you'll find our complete guide to everything "Mount Carleton." Whether it's the history, the hiking trails, schedule, driving directions, or even the answer to frequently asked questions such as "can I bring my dog on the trail?": you'll find it all here.

To make things easier, we also created a table of content and a Frequently Asked Question section at the end. Feel free to jump ahead at any time!

1. Introduction

Mount Carleton is one of New Brunswick's most significant natural areas, with over 17,000 hectares of wildlands and 62 kilometres of world-class hiking.

Summit of Mount Carleton photo credit Fralambert

This natural wonder is a destination you simply can't ignore on your trip to the north of the province; in fact, each year, more than 30,000 visitors seek out the many experiences found at Mount Carleton Provincial Park. Along with its legendary hiking trails, Mount Carleton offers great biking along the forest roadways and unforgettable canoeing across three lakes and two rivers.

Since the Chaleur Region is often considered "The Gateway to Mount Carleton," we felt it was our duty to assist you in planning your trip. You'll definitely want to stop by the Chaleur Region on your way there (for gear and supplies), and on your way back take a good shower, have a well-deserved meal out, maybe even cheers your accomplishments over a few local microbrews, and enjoy some of our legendary Chaleur Region hospitality!

Just making a quick day trip? Thinking of doing a week-long camping session? Keep reading: we've got you covered.

2. About Mount Carleton Provincial Park

Mount Carleton Provincial Park is located in the north-central highlands of the province. Established in 1970, it is part of the ancient Appalachian mountain range and showcases pristine wilderness all year round.

Both natives and early explorers used this area as a mean of travel between the Tobique and Nepisiguit rivers. By the 19th century, the surrounding forest had become familiar territory for loggers, trappers, and outfitters. The mountain from which the park takes its name honours the province's first lieutenant governor: Thomas Carleton (1736-1817).

lake at mount carleton provincial park

Six major types of habitat can be found at Mount Carleton:

  • Fire-birthed forest: The most abundant habitat of the park by far, this renewed flora covers more than 55% of the entire site. It includes over 10,000 hectares of white birch and black spruce.
  • Ageing evergreen forest: Almost 40% of Mount Carleton is covered in black spruce, balsam fir, and a mix of white spruce and white pine. It is home to a thriving and diverse population of deer, moose, bear, and various other mammals.
  • Marsh, meadow, sedge, and bog: This fragile and essential habitat covers about 5% of Mount Carleton.
  • Outcrop, scree and dwarf trees: Also fragile, this habitat covers approximately 1% of the site.
  • Standing water: Lakes and ponds make up a tiny percentage of the park -- approximately 567 hectares. It includes several large freshwater lakes such as Nictau Lake, Little Nictau Lake, Bathurst Lake, and the Nepisiguit Lakes.
  • Flowing water: Another even smaller area (approx. 283 hectares) is dedicated to brooks and rivers.

3. The wildlife of Mount Carleton Provincial Park

wildlife at mount carleton

Wildlife enthusiasts and bird watchers will feel right at home when visiting Mount Carleton. Over 100 different types of birds and 30 species of mammals call this provincial park their home.

Frequent bird sightings include goshawks, grouse, owls, woodpeckers, ravens, thrushes, warblers, and grosbeaks. Don't forget your birding logbook!

Mount Carleton includes approximately a half dozen known deer yards, where one may find wild white-tailed deer. Moose, on the other hand, are most common in the Nepisiguit Lakes region. Other common mammals include lynx, fisher, marten, porcupine, squirrels, and rabbits.

Mount Carleton's waterways host 13 species of fish, a somewhat low biodiversity due to its relatively cool climate. Species found here include brook trout, Atlantic salmon, white suckers, yellow perch, three-spine stickleback, pearl dace, common shiner, golden shiner, longnose sucker, lake chub, creek chub, slimy sculpin, and rainbow smelt.

You may test your skill at catching a trout or salmon from one of the lakes and rivers. However, fishing is not allowed in Mount Carleton's streams since these contain valuable fish spawning areas. Non-residents may purchase fishing licenses at any Natural Resources district offices. For fishing seasons and other details, consult the official website.

4. The four mountains of Mount Carleton Provincial Park

Mount Bailey in Mount Carleton Provincial Park Photo Credit Justin Roy

The park's natural area offers access to four distinct mountains:

  • Mount Carleton (820m): The namesake of the park and the highest peak in New Brunswick, famous for its hiking and backpacking.
  • Mount Head (792m): Not accessible by vehicle, it is the second-highest point in the park. Hikers can access Mount Head via the summit of either Mount Sagamook or Mount Carleton.
  • Mount Sagamook (777m): A very demanding hike, with an absolutely fantastic view from the summit.
  • Mount Bailey (564m): Moderate in difficulty with plenty of opportunities for deer and moose spotting. Bring your binoculars!

To properly plan your hiking trip(s), however, you need to take a look at the multiple trails offered by the park.

5. The trails

hiking mount carleton with a toddler

There's no doubt about it: the best way to see and experience the Mount Carleton wilderness is by hiking it. There are 11 trails to choose from, covering a grand total of 62 kilometres across the park.

The big question always is: "how long does it take to climb Mount Carleton?"

With only a few exceptions (Williams Fall and Pine Point), hiking these trails require fair physical condition and can even take a good part of the day. Plan ahead and, if possible, leave early enough to come back before it gets dark. We also recommend some essential preparation before you head out (more on this later!).

Williams Falls (0.3 km one-way | 5 minutes):

This easy walk is wheelchair-accessible. It winds through the Acadian forest and connects with William's Brook near a sylvan waterfall. A bridge built above the falls gives a spectacular view.

Pine Point (2 km return | 1/2 - 1 hour):

Follow the shores of Bathurst Lake through a forested peninsula of majestic red pine. You may see the occasional loon or other aquatic birds on the lake. A forest fire in 1933 created this red pine habitat. A few old burned pine trees can still be seen on the west side of the peninsula. Check for charcoal under the thin layer of leaves and needles among the pines.

Mount Carleton's Eastern Trail (4.4 km one way | 1 1/2 hours):

This old road used to bring supplies to the ranger's cabin where they found shelter during storms. At 2.8 km, the trail turns left (at the intersection of Big Brook Trail) and becomes rocky. The last 400-metre stretch is abrupt and offers a magnificent view. An old fire tower on the summit was staffed from 1923 to 1968.

Mount Carleton's Western Trail (5.2 km one way | 2 hours):

This trail winds under a forest canopy along Mamozekel Brook. At 4 km, it joins the backcountry campground, Headwaters, near several ponds. A short distance up the main trail, you have the choice of hiking on a rocky ridge or on a forested side path, giving shelter in windy weather.

Mount Head (4.25 km one way | 3 hours):

This is a linear trail connecting the peaks of Mount Sagamook and Mount Carleton. Hikers may enter this trail at the top of either mountain. If you begin at Sagamook, be aware that boulders at this location require careful walking. Stunted trees give the impression of an enchanted forest. This trail intersects with Bald Mountain Brook Trail. Keep walking straight on the main path until you reach a short side trail (1.7 km return) that will take you to the top of Mount Head. The detour is worth it!

top of mount Sagamook in mount carleton provincial park

Mount Sagamook (6.2 km return | 2-3 hours):

This is probably the most challenging hike. The eastern route (3.7 km) offers excellent views as you hike down the crest of a rocky ridge. A side trail (1 km return) follows the tree-covered crest of a craggy hill ending abruptly at a cliff. Be careful, the path is slippery on rainy days. The western route (2.5 km) is even more difficult. Near the crest, the trail emerges on a rock outcrop for a spectacular view of the Nictau Lakes. A side trail goes to a western viewpoint (0.6 km return). The main trail continues to Sagamook's peak (777 metres).

Caribou Brook (6 km one way | 2 hours):

This gentle hike connects Sagamook and Dry Brook trails. Caribou Brook, which twists and flows along the trail, is named for the woodland caribou that roamed here until the early 1900s. The path parallels the ancient native portage (now followed by the road) between Nictau and Nepisiguit lakes.

Dry Brook (6 km one way | 3 hours):

This trail begins at Bathurst Lake and heads west through stands of pine, birch, poplar, maple, and spruce. The path follows the brook up the valley, giving a view of several waterfalls (one of which is 10 metres high). The stream disappears underground in places, earning it the name 'Dry Brook.'

Big Brook (11 km one way | 4-5 hours):

Be prepared. This trail will take you on a long journey! It begins at Bathurst Lake and follows the shore for 2 km. Along the trail, you will discover an old fireplace and other remnants of a log cabin built by Buckley, an early Mount Carleton outfitter. The trail then turns inland and follows old logging roads through impressive forests. It joins Mount Carleton Trail just below the ranger cabin.

Mount Bailey (7.5 km return | 3-4 hours):

Begin your hike at the Nictau Recreation Area. This trail is ideal for spotting deer or moose. It's a steady climb through large sugar maple, yellow birch, and beech trees. Near the mountain peak, the forest changes abruptly to stunted white birch, pin cherry and mountain ash. A side trail (1.6 km - return) leads to Bailey's peak (564 metres). The main trail leads down to a 30-metre cliff. Be very careful. An alternate sheltered path avoids the escarpments.

Bald Mountain Brook (5.5 km one way | 3 hours):

Start hiking at the Bald Mountain Brook parking lot and head west towards Mount Bailey or east towards Mount Head. If you head east, a tumbling brook has worn a route for the trail in the mountainside. Mossy green with lots of waterfalls, this is a steep route. Remain on the path. Moss and lichens are very fragile. At the bottom of the valley, you will find a vast grassy meadow and a small brook. Check for shiny little glands of the insect-eating sundew plant.

6. Getting to Mount Carleton via the Chaleur Region

Mount Carleton is located roughly between Saint-Quentin, in north-western NB, and Bathurst (in the Chaleur Region!).

[Downtown Bathurst]

To get to Mount Carleton, you simply have to go west on route 180 from Bathurst (~113km), then a quick 9km ride down route 385 will take you into Mount Carleton Provincial Park (entrance on the left side!).

Getting to Mount Carleton is definitely the easy part, but remember: ultimately, it is considered remote forest. When you're there, the nearest community will be 43km away.

That's why your best bet is to stock up on food, water, gas, and gear while you're in the Chaleur Region!

7. Preparing for your trip to Mount Carleton

Heading out for a day hike is a beautiful way to get back to nature and connect with friends, family, or even with yourself. Whether you want to go on a full-day hike through Big Brook, or on one of the shorter trails like Pine Point, you'll need to determine what you should bring to be adequately prepared.

using a compass while hiking mount carleton

First, think about how far you plan to hike. In general, the longer the hike is the more clothing, water, and gear you're going to want.

Here's what you should bring if you're planning on hiking Mount Carleton:

  • WATER. Stay hydrated! Try to go somewhat beyond your minimal expectations, since you might be taking frequent breaks to enjoy the scenery.
  • FOOD. Think energy bars, nuts, dried fruits, or jerky. The idea is simple: you want to replenish with a snack, but also have something on you in case of unexpected delays such as an injury or sudden bad weather. (Note: there's no garbage collection on the trail, so don't leave anything behind!)
  • Insect repellant. (Especially important for spring/summer)
  • A site map. (Park staff can provide you one, or you can download this PDF map to keep on your phone)
  • Binoculars. Too often forgotten, and always a great way to see the wildlife "up close."
  • An extra layer of clothing, especially in the spring and fall. The top of the mountain can get windy, so a good windbreaker or raincoat can come in handy.
Winter Hiking at Mount Carleton
  • Comfortable footwear and dry socks. This isn't the time to break in those shiny new hiking boots either!
  • Comfortable clothing. Do dress for the season but try to wear something that "breathes" and can give you a wide range of movement. Also: see our point above about packing extra layers!
  • First aid. Sometimes, a couple of Band-Aids, a few over-the-counter pain relievers, and some disinfectant can go a long way! Something like specialized blister bandages can also be convenient to have.
  • Emergency Thermal Blanket. We know what you're thinking: "Hey, I'm not climbing Mt. Everest! Why would I need that?!". Climbing Mount Carleton is safe AND fun, but an emergency blanket is extraordinarily compact & lightweight (think ~60g to 80g) and can act as a shelter, an emergency signal and even as a ground cover (instead of a blanket) when taking an extended break! Bonus: if you didn't already have one, now you've got a perfect addition to your car's emergency kit!

8. The Gateway to Mount Carleton

So, you're planning a trip to Mount Carleton, and now you need to prepare for the journey. Maybe it's as simple as a few energy bars, or as "complex" as a first aid kit. Perhaps it's just a celebratory meal with your friends after a good hike.

Whatever the case may be, come see us in the Chaleur Region!

  • Shop local: any the Chaleur Region's municipalities can fulfill your hiking shopping list, but in Bathurst, you'll find the Nepisiguit River Company – an outdoor sporting goods & equipment store that can also assist you with any bike repairs!
  • Eat local: whether it's a good meal before the trip, a tasty Pub-style burger to celebrate, or a delicious vegetarian night out; you'll find them all in the Chaleur Region's many great restaurants.
  • Drink Local: get ready to kick off the hiking boots and enjoy a night out! In Bathurst, you'll find 2 microbreweries, a specialty wine bar, and a fantastic vintage-style craft-beer bar with a wide selection of beers from the Maritimes. Best of all? They're all within minutes of each other on foot! (no hiking gear required)
  • Stay a while: hotels, campings, bed & breakfasts, cottages: you'll feel right at home in the Chaleur Region. Transform your Mount Carleton hiking trip into a multiple-day vacation on one of the most beautiful bays in the world.

We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful region!

9. Hard mode: Hiking the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail

Are you looking for a multi-day hiking experience that is simply out of this world? A 150km trek through one of the most beautiful and challenging hiking trails this side of the world? Do you scoff at the idea of a 5-hour hike, and would much rather go on a full-out 6-12 days hike before you finally conquer the Maritime's highest peak?

You have finally met your match.

[Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail]

While the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail's many access points make it a fantastic destination for casual day hikers, the full length is a 150km journey through some of the most scenic and diverse terrain in eastern North America, before arriving at the base of Mount Carleton.

It is remote.

It is wild.

It's what we like to call taking the "hard mode."

Newly opened, it's a trail full of rich history. It was previously used by the Mi'gmaq people for thousands of years for a variety of purposes such as tribal hunting, fishing, trapping and as a trade route to other First Nation communities.

Nowadays, this historic artery into New Brunswick's wilderness offers over 21 access points and a full-length hike ranging from 6 (25 km/d) to 12 (12.5 km/d) days depending on the local weather and one's individual ability.

If you're looking for an extra challenge before climbing the Maritime's highest point: add the Mi'gmaq Hiking Trail to your bucket list. Visit their official website for an in-depth guide to their multi-day hike.

10. Mount Carleton FAQ

Because the Chaleur Region is the Gateway to Mount Carleton, we get our fair share of questions from locals and tourists alike. We've gathered some of the most frequently asked questions:

Yes! Mount Carleton is a Provincial Park and, according to the policies designated by the New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture: your furry companion is allowed to come on the trail with you!

Be aware that, as per those same rules:
  • Domestic animals within Provincial Parks must be leashed, caged, or tied at all times.
  • The owners of domestic animals are responsible for cleaning up the animal's waste before leaving the park.
  • At no time are domestic animals to be left unattended in vehicles.

If you're following all the rules, then: have a fun hike with your dog! We'd suggest avoiding some of the harder trails if you're hiking with your pet -- ask a member of the park staff if you need help with suggestions!

No Timbits for you! Pack up an insulated mug if you're looking for a high-altitude jolt of caffeine.

(PS: If you are bringing your favourite take-out beverage on your hike, please remember not to leave anything behind!)

You can count a good 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a round trip hike to the top of Mount Carleton using the eastern trail. Please see our trail list for a full breakdown of time by individual path.

At 820 meters, Mount Carleton is the highest peak in the Maritimes!

**Updated for 2021** The Mount Carleton park is currently open for the season. The gates opened on May 15th, and are typically open until mid-october.

Daily, the park gates open at 8 am and close at 8 pm.

You'll find some very popular campgrounds within Mount Carleton Provincial Park, such as the Armstrong Brook Campground. You could also choose to stay at one of the many great hotels or campgrounds in the Chaleur Region, and enjoy some great food and microbreweries to top off your day!

Let's face it: a nice hot shower after a long hike is definitely more than welcome.

A day pass for hikers is a very affordable fee of $10 per vehicle. Please note that this fee is payable in cash only, due to the remoteness of the park.

Cellular service is generally not consistent within or around Mount Carleton.

As early as Route 180, you'll start dropping off of nearby cellular tower's range. By the time you reach Mount Carleton Provincial Park, cell reception will be practically non-existent.

Fun fact: your best bet for cellular reception might actually be at the end of your climb when you reach the top of the mountain.

On the one hand, it's a great way to disconnect and enjoy nature! On the other, be sure not to rely on your device for orienteering. A park map and a compass won't let you down, and best of all: you won't have the charge any batteries!

(Note: there's free WiFi at the park's administrative building!)

You can reach the office at 1-(506)-235-0793 or toll-free at 1-(800)-561-0123.

11. Conclusion

Whether you're going on your first hike up Mount Carleton, or on the ultimate "hard mode" full-length Mi'gmaq Trail adventure, we all have something in common: that desire to unplug and commune with nature.

solo hiking mount carleton on an overcast day

That’s the way of life here in the Chaleur Region.

To unplug, and play.

To take your time. Fall in love.

Enjoy your hike up Mount Carleton, and we hope to see you soon in the Chaleur Region!


Take your time. Fall in Love.

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